When Guilt Takes Hold

The way our office is set up, if you call the church phone number, you get Dee who is the best phone answerer on God’s green earth.  I’m not kidding.  This lady was born to answer the phone.  Not only is she a veritable abyss of useful information, but I defy you to talk to her for 3 seconds without sensing her smile on the other end of the line.  No joke.  Dee rocks.

If Dee steps away from her desk, the incoming call gets rolled over to someone else’s desk.  If that person isn’t there, the call goes to another person’s desk (Both desks have a specific person at them, but I’m not telling you who they are.  Move on.)  After that, apparently the call just goes up for grabs and flies to the nearest extension.  In this case: mine.

My desk phone rings. I see an unfamiliar number on the screen.  No name.  I pick up the phone and give my standard, “Hello, this is Jerry.”  

“Um….Yes…..Umm….is this a pastor?” the voice asked. (Imagine a voice crossed between Slingblade and Forrest Gump)

I reply with confidence, “Yes, I’m a pastor.”

“Um…yes…hello. I’m wondering what time your church service is.”

“Well, we have a Saturday night service at 6, then 2 more services on Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m.”

“Um…yes…I’d like to come there and I’d like to come to a service.”

“Wonderful! You’re always welcome.”

“Um…yes…thank you. You see, I have an interview at Philip Morris this week and I’d like somebody to pray for me.”

Pastorally I answer, “I’d be happy to pray for you about that.”

Another voice bursts in.  This time, its a woman’s voice.  (This voice crossed between Pearl from 227 and a pitbull.)

“Um, yes. Who is this?”

“Hi, I’m Jerry. I was just talking to a gentleman about praying for an interview he has this week at Philip Morris.”

“He told you what?!?  Look. He’s sick.  He’s been throwing up 3 times already today.  Look, we out here at a motel and we ain’t got nothing and they ’bout to put us out.  We can’t get bus fare and we can’t even get nobody to give us a dollar fifty for bus fare so we can get on out of here.  We’re not from here and there’s a Red Roof Inn across the street and we need somebody to come out here and just put us up over there ‘cuz over there is 47 a night and we just need somebody to help us out.  We ain’t eaten for 2 days and I’m not even lying about that. I don’t have to lie.  That’s the truth. We had to share a McDonald’s double cheeseburger and we can’t even get bus fare now.  And we need somebody to come out there and give us bus fare so we can get out of here. And we need you to come and maybe get us something to eat and maybe put us up over at that Red Roof Inn for a couple nights or more.  Cain’t you come and do that?  We been on the phone since 8 o’clock this morning here in this lobby and they ain’t going to put up with us being here much longer. We ain’t from around here and we need somebody to come and get us bus fare, get us something to eat, and put us up for a few nights at the Red Roof Inn across the street cuz its 47 a night over there…..you postuh be doing the Lord’s work, ain’t you?”

And there it was.  The guilt card.  She slapped that card down on the table with a scowl on her face I could hear through the phone.

And in that moment, I could feel the weight rest down upon my chest.  It was the weight of guilt that had been shifted from this woman’s dire situation (alleged) onto me; brought on by the indictment: “You’re supposed to be doing the Lord’s work, ain’t you?”

My answer to that question?  Absolutely.  

But friends, guilt is the devil’s work.  Never mistake guilt for the Spirit’s leading.  The Spirit brings life, freedom, and joy—not one of which was present in that phone conversation.  The devil brings guilt, shame, and shackles.  Now, I’m not talking my way out of not driving a half an hour to give this woman $1.50, $3, money for a meal or two, or a few nights at the Red Roof Inn.  But when I got off that phone, I did what I could do for them–in fact, I did the BEST thing I could do for them.

Has guilt been at work in your life?  Have you found its crushing weight resting on your chest lately?

There’s no mistake then where it came from.  Turn to the One strong enough to lift from you the heaviest of weights that the enemy can seek to shackle you with.  And in the deepest sense of conviction, hope, peace, and joy celebrate the freedom to do “the Lord’s work” the Lord’s way!

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